Leonard Peikoff states that religion is on the rise in America. But everytime the Republicans nominate a religious nutjob he loses big. What is the reason for this? Are there actual numbers to support Peikoff? I heard him say that a good indication is that classical music now sells less than Christian music. But is this really a good indicator? What is the state of Evangelicalism?
asked Nov 24 '13 at 04:28
Leonard Peikoff discusses the influence of religion in present-day America in the final two chapters of his book, The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out (Chap. 15-16). The book as a whole identifies five possible modes of cognitive integration (D1, D2, I, M1, M2) and classifies religion generally as M2 (misintegration, ideas cut off from reality). The book surveys the role and effect of each mode in four key cultural fields: literature, science (especially physics), education (mainly K-12), and politics. Chap. 15 (p. 311) points to the series of novels titled, "Left Behind," as strong indicators of Christian influence in literature. (More information about this series can be found in the Wikipedia topic of "Left Behind.") The novels present a story of a "Second Coming of Christ" and "Armageddon." The novels reflect the basic view of secularism of any kind as moral corruption. Page 312 reports that when Dr. Peikoff checked, "the Left Behind series had sold sixty million copies in print, video, and cassette form, and had been outsold only by the Harry Potter series." Another example in literature is "the mammoth attendance at Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ."
Pages 313-314 note that "Between one and two million American students now get their education in home schools. Some 90 percent of these, while offering traditional subject matter, define their fundamental purpose as religious training." The parents often argue that the public schools are a "secularist disaster" and that it's "time to try the alternative ... the anti-godless school."
Page 310 identifies the New Christians as follows:
Considering our nation as it is today, the most prominent representatives of the M2 mentality -- the largest, most articulate, and most militant groups of rebels against the establishment -- are to be found among the fundamentalists, the evangelicals, the Pentecostals, and in general the born-agains. We may call these overlapping groups New Christians, new because the consistency of their religious ideology and the scope of their cultural ambition have not been seen in the West for many centuries.
Page 315 describes the political view of the New Christians ("dominionism") and concludes:
Across the board, the New Christianity is M2. As we have seen however, politics is usually the last area to yield to modal change, and most New Christians, accordingly, are not at present willing to accept the politics of their philosophy.
Page 316 goes on to explain that many New Christians still oppose big government and "the size of our taxes, deficit, and regulatory burden, but they say little or nothing about the entitlement and welfare programs that necessitate these evils, because Christianity makes these programs a moral duty." Even mainstream Republicans, when in power, have helped to institutionalize the welfare state despite their praise of capitalism and attacks on welfare-state measures before being voted into office. As a result, "many of the new Christians, holding their religion seriously, have begun to shed the traditional conservative perspective." Many are beginning to wonder if their esteem for the U.S. Constitution as a "god-inspired document" may be misplaced, and that freedom may not be compatible with God and morality.
Page 317 describes a "historic popular feeling" today that "something fundamental has gone wrong with the United States. The only possible fix, New Christians tell them, is authentic religion -- meaning religion shorn of secular concessions.... What they seek is revolution across the whole of American culture, in the name of a mode of thought that has not ruled here since the time of the Puritans."
The next section of Chapter 15, "M2 Power in the United States" (pp. 317-326) explains that the New Christianity "is defined in terms of fundamental principles" and thus is not provincial, i.e., not restricted to poor, uneducated whites in the South, but has broad national reach. It is of Baptist origin but "has spread across the religious spectrum...." It cuts across racial and ethnic lines, as well. It has penetrated into children's toys and teen magazines and music recordings as well as church-going adults. Pages 319-322 describe the growing influence of New Christianity among college students and the military as well as adults in business. It's supporters have become the base of today's Republican party -- and ever increasing numbers of Democrats, too, "are urging a soft-pedaling of secularism and a new stress on God ... 'evoking religion to justify their actions.'"
Pages 323-325 describe some pieces of evidence suggesting some degree of recoil from the extremes of the New Christianity, but that evidence pales in comparison to the evidence of the New Christianity's growing strength. Estimates of the number of Americans who embrace the New Christianity, in its fundamentals if not always its details, vary from 60 to 120 million people, nearly one-third of the U.S. population. Even among Christians in general, not just evangelicals, a strong majority (landslide majority in some issues) accept and believe in the Bible as literally accurate, including the many "miracles" that the Bible describes. That section of the DIM book concludes (p. 326): "judging by present evidence, one solid conclusion emerges: The M2 penetration of the American mind and culture is real. It is broad and deep -- and growing."
The final section of Chapter 15, "M2 and Environmentalism" (pp. 326-332), notes that "the lure of worldly possessions is ... an obstacle facing the M2's," but that the growing influence of environmentalism (a 'D' trend) may finally overcome this obstacle (p. 327):
Destruction is disintegration, a principle we have already seen applied by the Ds in the fields of metaphysics and epistemology, who thereby leave these fields open for an M2 takeover. The same principle applies to values; so in this issue, too, we can expect the Ds -- and particularly the specialists in destruction, the D2s -- to become helpful albeit unintentional allies of the M2s.
Environmentalism represents the attempt to demand a human existence of poverty, not because the Bible commands it, but because science allegedly proves it to be unavoidable. The remainder of the chapter discusses this new "secularist" anti-secularism in detail, concluding (on p. 332) with further comparison of M2 to D1 and D2. "Once M2s have come to power, accordingly, they have no further use for the D2s they earlier embraced, as both Stalin and Hitler demonstrated.... The haters of God are a godsend to His lovers."
DIM does not predict which M2 faction will prevail, only that whatever its exact form, it will be M2 in its underlying view of cognitive integration as disconnected from reality (proceeding instead from a priori postulates of faith), and most likely thoroughly anti-secular, anti-material, upholding a life of privation and suffering on earth.
Chapter 16, "What's Next," begins with a section titled, "There Is Nothing to Stop M2" (pp. 333-336), then sections on the "Form of an American M2" (pp. 336-338), "When It Will Happen" (pp. 338-340), "Can the DIM Prediction Be Certain" (pp. 341-342), and "Is There Still Hope" (pp. 342-347). The only remotely plausible hope that Dr. Peikoff can see is a growing interest in Objectivism -- an 'I' approach, representing thorough integration of ideas with reality, neither espousing ideas apart from reality [M] nor perceptual concretes apart from ideas [D]. The book predicts that at best, it will be an extremely "close call" in the next several decades for a new 'I' influence to grow sufficiently to have any chance at all to begin to unseat the advance of M2 before the M2 trend comes fully into power and then crushes everything else. "To win the battle for America will not be possible much longer."